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Karl O'Kane

Kerry boss Jack O'Connor expresses David Clifford fears ahead of 2023 opener

Jack O’Connor says David Clifford’s heavy workload in recent months is a concern for Kerry.

The Kerry All-Ireland winning boss also pointed to other players in the same boat, including Clifford’s older brother, Paudie, who he says need a rest.

O’Connor went on to indicate that some of the players still involved in this month’s All-Ireland club championships - including the Cliffords - may not see action for Kerry until March.

Read more: Tyrone refusing to dwell on dismal All-Ireland defence insists Kieran McGeary

Kerry open their season with a trip to face Cork in the McGrath Cup at Páirc Uí Rinn tomorrow night (7pm) with their Division 1 League title defence beginning in Ballybofey against Donegal on January 29.

In his first interview of the new season, O’Connor (62) said that Kerry will invoke the spirit of legendary American Football quarterback Tom Brady when it comes to defending their All-Ireland title.

“That is the key to it, can fellows go to the well again or do they live off the fat of the land and keep thinking back to last year,” said the Dromid Pearses man.

“We must make sure that looking back is not a factor and fellows have to just move on and use the old Tom Brady line, when asked what was his favourite Superbowl win and he said, ‘The next one.’

“That is the way we have to be looking at it, that it is the coming year that counts, not the last one and that is important.”

On the schedule faced by the Cliffords, who landed McGrath Cup, League and All-Ireland honours with Kerry this year, county titles with East Kerry and Fossa, as well as a Munster crown with their club, O’Connor said: “It is of course a concern for David as for the other lads still playing club.

“I think it is no coincidence that David had such a good year last year - and Paudie - because Fossa was knocked out early from the club championship and so was East Kerry.

David Clifford's Fossa are in action in Saturday's AIB All-Ireland Club JFC semi-final against Castletown (Meath) at Portlaoise. (©INPHO/Ryan Byrne)

“So I reckon they got a good break in November and part of December. Players need rest. There is no question about it, so if it’s not built into the season we have to find it for them.

“The lads who come back after their club action over the next few weeks hopefully, will need a few weeks off. There is no question about it. It could be March before we see some of those fellows.”

O’Connor says a repeat of last year’s clean sweep of four trophies may not be possible in 2023.

“Well, I think you have to be realistic,” he said. “You have a lot of players this year not available to us.

“You’ve the six lads involved with their clubs and then we have quite a good share of injuries lingering on from the county championship and whatever, and obviously Gavin White’s injury from the All-Ireland final.

“We are down a lot of players so by necessity we will have to be more experimental.

“I couldn't envisage that we’ll have any more than three starters from the All-Ireland team starting (McGrath Cup against Cork tomorrow evening).”

Last year’s official captain Joe O’Connor (cruciate knee ligament) is out long-term, while All Star wing back White is not back on the pitch yet.

“He’s going for a check-up in mid January and we’ll see if he has the all clear then,” said O’Connor.

“Mike Breen is back doing a bit while Paul Geaney has had an ankle issue.”

O’Connor says Stephen O’Brien, Sean O’Shea, Brian Ó Beaglaoich and Graham O’Sullivan all have “bits of issues from the club championships” and are out in the short-term.

O’Connor has drafted in 10 players who will get their chance in the McGrath Cup and the early stages of the League.

James McCarthy (Kenmare), Barry O’Sullivan (Dingle), Ruairi Murphy (Listry), Barry Mahony (St Senans), Devon Burns (Na Gaeil), Dylan Geaney (Dingle), Ronan Buckley (Listry), Eddie Horan (Scartaglin), Shane Cronin (Spa) and Chris O’Donoghue (Glenflesk) are the new faces on board.

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